light into ashes
Apr 19, 2011 12:59pm
Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72
Ah, good work.
There's another element, though: Weir recorded Ace in Jan/Feb '72. If you listen to that version (one of the Dead's best studio performances, actually), it's clear they've made the jump in the jam, though it wasn't quite the firebreather it would be in March. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-AhJhiBYxs
Keith was certainly a big factor as well. The band were already heading in a spacier direction in '71 (as in the Other Ones), but it's easy to hear how the jams take off into space after Keith arrives in October. I'm sure part of the change in Garcia's style was due to playing with Keith.
The band had been fans of Miles Davis's 'fusion' work since '69/70 - and McLaughlin was on those albums as well - but it didn't really affect their playing at the time (maybe indirectly, like in the Dark Stars). I think it was only after Keith arrived that they had the freedom & virtuosity to dive into their own type of 'fusion', and that was still a development that took a couple years. To be clear, there had been jazz elements in the Dead's playing for years (it's all over '68), but it was the addition of piano and the freeing-up of their playing over '71-'73 that brought them sonically closer to Miles-type music.
From a Bob Weir interview at All About Jazz:
"There was this soul romping of jazz in the 60s, and it was furious and cooking so we concentrated on that along with what Ornette was doing. In the early 70s, Miles came out with Bitches Brew and Live Evil, but we also listened to Return to Forever, which was fusion that hadn't slipped into its dry and intellectual mode yet. Those fusion guys had monstrous facility which seemed unattainable, but Bitches Brew was more groove oriented and a clear lightpost, so we did that stuff in rehearsal all the time. We could also pull it off on stage from time to time."
Q: Did the audience always follow?
"We would take the temperature of the audience and though nobody ever discussed it, there was an understanding...that there is only so much of this that we are going to get away with, because for the most part, the audience came to hear songs. And of course we loved to deliver songs."
(More jazz discussion here: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/01/dead-and-jazz.html
And remember, the '72 Wales tour was just a few shows. In 1970, Garcia had played with Wales weekly for several months (as we hear on the Side Trips CD). Yet I'm not sure if that had any effect on his GD playing that year. What we hear in Garcia's playing on 1/26/72 may be more what he brought to the table, rather than what Wales brought to him.
This was a JGMF post on the '72 Wales tour: http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2010/12/hwjg-quick-question-on-january-72-east.html
Jerry himself downplayed the tour: "I didn't really go on the road that time to play. The thing was really misrepresented. I just wanted to get Howard out playing, and the band had a nice thing going which really didn't have much to do with me. I was just there fucking around."
Apparently there was a lot of disappointment among deadheads who went to see Garcia, but got a hard dose of Wales music with Garcia as occasional sideman.
Wales' guitarist James Vincent wrote a memoir (Space Traveler), with some comments on the tour. He noticed that the deadheads in the audience did not take well to the Mahavishnu Orchestra!
He first saw the Howard Wales Band (Wales, Roger "the Roll" Troy, & Jerry Love) at the Lions Share in San Anselmo sometime in '71.
"The Roll told me that Howard had just finished an album with Jerry Garcia called Hooteroll. Howard had brought them back from out east to do another record for Douglas Records. Apparently Alan Douglas had a distribution deal with Columbia Records... There was even talk of a tour with Jerry Garcia upon the release of the Hooteroll album."
Struck by the music, Vincent joined the group immediately. "The band started playing some small gigs in places like the Matrix, Keystone Berkeley, and Lions Share. In the summer of 1971 we began recording at Columbia Studios in San Francisco...
"In the meantime, we hooked up with Jerry Garcia to prepare for an East Coast tour for the promotion of Hooteroll. When I met Jerry for our first and only rehearsal prior to going on the road, I had no idea how big this thing was going to be... I had never really paid much attention to that band."
The "Hooteroll Band" arrived in New York in Jan '72 (accompanied by Sam Cutler), and Vincent noted at the press conference that the reporters were eager to interview Jerry Garcia, while being "polite" to Wales.
"We played to a sold-out house at the Academy of Music and received an enthusiastic response, complete with encore. Our approach to playing music was not unlike the Dead's, except the musicianship was perhaps more technically advanced.
"After that night we were joined by another band that would open for us on the remainder of the tour. Observing this band in action was a humbling and inspirational experience for me. The group was the newly formed Mahavishnu Orchestra...
"The most prestigious venue on our tour was the final gig at Boston Symphony Hall. It was amazing to me that our audience, comprised mostly of "Dead Heads", did not seem at all impressed with the great music being played by our "warm up" band. It certainly was a new type of music...executed with a virtuosity that was unprecedented in rock, and it was obviously way over the heads of their listeners. In that audience, there were people with human skulls impaled on long poles, and they were ready to "jam", not to be taken on an esoteric musical journey executed with precision and elegance.
"Our two roadies were Joe Winslow and Steve Parrish, from the Dead Family. Not only were they real pros at their work, they were great protectors of the band. Whenever any ill-behaved audience members would try to storm the stage, these two could always be counted on to stop them dead in their tracks. Along with all of the gear they transported and set up every night, they always made sure we had a couple tanks of nitrous oxide ready to go..." (Vincent mentions that during the Boston show, Wales was soaring on an acid trip.)
That's about all he says about this band, in-between all the drug stories. And there are MANY drug stories about Douglas, Wales, etc... (Apparently Douglas was a cocaine fiend, while Wales had the most potent weed Vincent ever encountered, plus they were often dosed with LSD before shows; so the band was permanently wasted. "We all felt invincible...we all lived on the edge back then. Looking back, I feel truly thankful to be alive...")
He does talk about Wales' music:
"I very much enjoyed the musical freedom...it was unlike any band I had ever worked with. The songs were not difficult to learn, and we were never expected to play Howard's music the same way twice. That approach to our music produced a good deal of spontaneity and excitement when the band really 'connected', but we found that connection was not always a sure thing. When we were 'off', we could certainly be less than inspirational. Our unspoken goal was to give it a little time, develop as much consistency as possible, and just get comfortable playing together. One element that heavily influenced our rehearsal was the ever-present giant reefer..."
This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-04-19 19:59:09